Srinagar: Wildlife authorities have asked orchardists to spray pepper and guard fruit trees with poultry mesh to neutralize porcupine attacks in the south Kashmir region.
Pulwama, Shopian and Budgam districts have reported a heavy presence of wild rodent porcupines, which have caused huge damage to the apple and almond orchards.
Porcupines have debarked a large number of apple and almond trees forcing farmers to send SOS to the government.
Sensing trouble, the horticulture department wrote to the wildlife department for help. To keep the porcupine at bay, the wildlife department advised three different methods to avoid damage to the apple and almond trees.
Suhail Intisar, senior wildlife warden, Pulwama-Shopian range, told The Kashmir Monitor that the department has advised farmers to cover trees with a home-made poultry mesh.
“We have very limited options. We have advised farmers to use poultry mesh for making a three-foot-tall tree guard. Porcupines feed on tubers and in absence of food, they debark the almond or apple tree and suck the sac,” he said.
For small plants, Intisar said the wildlife department has advised spraying the pepper. “The pepper is a repellent and we have consulted the horticulture department for its approval,” he said.
Suhail said the natural vegetative repellant-Iris and animal scent too has been advised by the department against porcupine attacks. “We are exploring these options. As of now, the tree guard is a better option,” he said.
He said the population of porcupines has immensely increased because of the scarcity of food in winters.
“Their movement towards localities can remain for another 15-20 days. We cannot capture them given their huge population. So temporarily we have taken some measure to prevent damage to apple trees,” he said.
The horticulture department too has asked the farmers to either cover the trees with jute bags or to keep vegetables in the gardens.
Increased porcupine attacks have left the farmers worried ahead of the spring blossom. “For the last many years, porcupines have been damaging our crops. From fruit trees to potato crop, they eat our entire produce and cause heavy losses to us,” said Mohammad Farooq, a resident of Shopian.